By HAL McCOY
Wonder how long Anthony DeSclafani can hold his breath? It certainly was tested Friday night when he and his Cincinnati Reds began the second half of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers and scored a breath-holding 5-4 victory.
DeSclafani was poised to push his record to 4-and-0 when the ninth inning began and the Reds owned a two-run lead.
Tony Cingrani came on to protect it and couldn’t finish, giving up a run and left the bases loaded with two outs.
IT WAS A CECIL B. DeMille moment, a baseball movie — a one-run lead, bases loaded, two outs, one of baseball’s best clutch hitters, Ryan Braun, waving the lumber at relief pitcher Ross Ohlendorf.
After ball one, Braun popped up the next pitch to shortstop Zack Cozart and the Reds were 5-4 winners.
DeSclafani, fast becoming the Reds’ best pitcher, went six innings and gave up three runs (his sixth straight quality start), six hits, no walks and struck out eight.
He fell behind, 3-1, when he gave up three hits and a run in the first inning and a home run to Scooter Gennett in the sixth.
BUT HE SHUT IT DOWN from there, retiring 12 straight at one juncture.
And he received major help from right field Jay Bruce, the man who may not be with the Reds much longer. Bruce went above the right field wall to snag a ball headed for the seats hit by Chris Carter in the fourth inning.
The Reds grabbed the lead in the sixth against Milwaukee starter Matt Garza, a charter member of the Ugly Beards Society. They scored three times.
Joey Votto poked a one-out, full-count single to left and Jay Bruce coaxed a full-count walk. Adam Duvall doubled six inches below the yellow line in left field for one run. Catcher Tucker Barnhart poked a two-strike, two-out opposite-field double just over the third base bag for two runs and a 4-3 lead.
THE REDS ADDED WHAT would be the winning run in the seventh after Billy Hamilton bunted for a hit and took second on pitcher Blaine Boyer’s throwing error. Bruce scored him with a double to left center and a 5-3 lead.
Hamilton stole the Reds’ first run in the fourth with, how else, his legs. He beat an infield hit to shortstop, took second on Votto’s ground ball that shortstop Jonathan Villar juggled, and scored all the way from second on a ground ball when the Brewers failed to turn a double play.
Raisel Iglesias pitched two scoreless innings after DeSclafani left and the Reds took the 5-3 lead into the ninth.
CINGRANI, THOUGH, WAS wilder than an unbroken palomino while facing the bottom of the Brewers order. He walked pinch-hitter Jake Elmore on a full count to open the inning.
Will Middlebrooks singled to right to put runners on second and first with no outs. Pinch-hitter Hernan Perez singled to right on the first pitch for a run, cutting the margin to 5-4.
Pinch-hitter Yadier Perez bunted the runners to third and second and Cingrani walked Jonathan Villar to fill the bases with one out.
Once again he fell to 3-and-2 on Gennett before he fouled out to second baseman Jose Peraza for the second out.
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE brought in right hander Ross Ohlendorf to face the right handed Ryan Braun and the game ended on the second pitch.
And in the dugout, DeSclafani exhaled.
Before the game, Price said he would like to see his team do better in close games and cited the fact the team was in 37 one-run or two-run games in the first half and didn’t win enough of them.
And on this night they listened to the boss.
The Reds lost second baseman Brandon Phillips when he strained his right calf muscle swinging at a pitch in the sixth before striking out. He is listed as day-to-day with the calf muscle injury joining the hairline fracture Phillips has in a finger.